Odisha law minister, 12 others booked for murder of BJP leader and his associate
Hours after a 75-year-old BJP leader and his associate were murdered in Salepur area of Cuttack district in Odisha, the Odisha police booked state law minister Pratap Jena and a dozen others as the BJP alleged that the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) had started retributive politics like the Trinamool Congress in neighbouring West Bengal. The BJP leader was murdered along with his 80-year-old associate by six men over past enmity.
On Saturday evening, Kulamani Baral, 75, in-charge of Salepur mandal of BJP and former chairman of Mahanga Panchayat Samiti was hacked to death along with his 80-year-old associate Dibyasingh Baral near Jankoti village while returning home on a motorcycle. The duo received grievous injuries on their face and chest. While Kulamani succumbed to his injuries on the spot, Dibyasingh died while undergoing treatment at the SCB Medical College and Hospital in Cuttack on Sunday morning.
Soon after the murder, police in Cuttack registered a case against 13 people, including state law minister Pratap Jena for their alleged involvement in the double murder of BJP leader Baral and his associate and relative Dibyasingh on Saturday evening. The law minister and others have been booked under Sections 302 (murder), 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), 149 (every member of unlawful assembly guilty of offence committed in prosecution of common object), 120-B (punishment of criminal conspiracy), 506 (criminal intimidation), 25 and 27 of the Arms Act.
Angry over the twin murders, the BJP said that the ruling BJD had started eliminating rivals in a cold-blooded manner like the Trinamool Congress was doing in Bengal.
“Anyone who raises their voice against Mamata is being killed in Bengal. Likewise, BJD leaders in Odisha are doing the same to their political rivals. As a senior BJP leader, Baral was raising his voice against corruption in the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana in Nrutanga gram panchayat for quite some time. After he alleged that the well-to-do BJD leaders in the panchayat were appropriating the PMAY houses meant for poor people, the local administration had lodged cases against the ineligible beneficiaries. Those BJD leaders harboured a grudge against him for a long time. Now that the law minister has been accused in the case he should be sacked immediately,” alleged Golak Mohapatra, BJP’s state spokesperson.
Union petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan also condemned the alleged murder of Baral and his associate and urged the administration to take exemplary action against the culprits. Expressing deep anguish over the incident, BJP national vice president Baijayant Panda said that stringent action should be taken against those involved in the incident after a probe. Odisha Congress president Niranjan Patnaik said, “Kulamani was a strong leader. His death shows that political killings have now begun in the state. I request the government to take stringent action against the accused.”
Kulamani’s son Ramakant, who lodged an FIR against 13 people, said his father was raising his voice against corruption in several government schemes such as PMAY. “My father had already informed the police about the threat to his life. Yet no action was taken,” said Ramakant Baral. The husband of a local sarpanch and a former chairman of the Mahanga Panchayat Samiti have been named in the FIR.
He also alleged that several people against whom he lodged an FIR were behind the murder of Bikash Jena, a local BJP leader in Jankoti village in December 2018. “Had the police taken action against those accused, then my father would not have been killed. These accused are protected by the law minister and Mahanga MLA Pratap Jena,” said Ramakant.
However, law minister Pratap Jena denied the charges saying he would see to it that those who killed the BJP leader get punished. “There is no place for violence in politics,” he said.
Cuttack rural SP Jugal Kishore Banoth said 6 teams have been formed to arrest the accused.